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May, vb. (impf. might; mought in H6C V, 2, 45), 1) denoting subjective ability, == can: “she hath assayed as much as may be proved,” Ven. 608. “whom stripes may move, not kindness,” Tp. I, 2, 345. “means much weaker than you may call to comfort you,” V, 147. “nor have I seen more that I may call men than you and my father,” III, 1, 51. if any man may (win her) “you may as soon as any,” Wiv. II, 2, 245. “cutting a smaller hair than may be seen,” LLL V, 2, 258. “it stands so that I may hardly tarry so long,” Shr. Ind. 2, 127. “you, cousin Nevil, as I may remember,” H4B III, 1, 66. “I am coming on, to venge me as I may,” H5 I, 2, 292. “yet, as we may, we'll meet both thee and Warwick,” H6C IV, 7, 86. “with all the heed I may,” R3 III, 1, 187 (Ff can). “with all the humbleness I may, I greet your honours from Andronicus,” Tit. IV, 2, 4. “your desire to know what is between us, o'ermaster it as you may,” Hml. I, 5, 140 etc. Likewise in negative and interrogative sentences: “may it be that thou shouldst think it heavy?” Ven. 155. “what bargains may I make, still to be sealing?” Ven. 155 “what may a heavy groan advantage thee?” Ven. 155 “may my pure mind with the foul act dispense . . . . may any terms acquit me from this chance?” Lucr. 1704. Lucr. 1704 “may I not go out ere he come?” Wiv. IV, 2, 51. “how may I do it?” Meas. IV, 2, 175. “and may it be that you have quite forgot a husband's office?” Err. III, 2, 1. “may this be so?” Ado III, 2, 120. “may you stead me? will you pleasure me?” Merch. I, 3, 7. “it is a surplus of your grace, which never my life may last to answer,” Wint. V, 3, 8. “may this be possible? may this be true?” John V, 4, 21. “such beastly transformation . . . as may not be without much shame retold,” H4A I, 1, 45. “may it be possible?” H5 II, 2, 100 etc. Can and may alternating: “can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France? or may we cram within this wooden O the very casques,” H5 II, 2, 100. The modern use of can and may quite inverted: “whom may you else oppose, that can from Hector bring his honour off, if not Achilles?” Troil. I, 3, 333.
Impf. might (not as a subjunctive, but as an indicative, == I was able): “not only with what my revenue yielded, but what my power might else exact,” Tp. I, 2, 99. “when I might behold addrest the king,” LLL V, 2, 92. “but I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft quenched in the chaste beams of the watery moon,” Mids. II, 1, 161. “from off our towers we might behold the onset and retire,” John II, 325. “but at last I well might hear,” H6C V, 2, 46. “when he might act the woman in the scene,” Cor. II, 2, 100. “what we did was mildly as we might,” Tit. I, 475 etc. Interrogative and negative sentences: “mightst thou perceive in his eye that he did plead in earnest?” Err. IV, 2, 2. “such a storm that mortal ears might hardly endure the din,” Shr. I, 1, 178. “might you not know she would do as she has done?” All's III, 4, 2. “and might by no suit gain our audience,” H4B IV, 1, 76. “like a clamour in a vault, that mought not be distinguished,” H6C V, 2, 45. “which till to-night I ne'er might see before,” Oth. II, 3, 236 etc.
2) denoting objective possibility, and synonymous to the adv. perhaps: “the season once more fits, that love-sick Love by pleading may be blest,” Ven. 328. “then happy I, that love and am beloved where I may not remove nor be removed,” Sonn. 25, 14. “I may be straight, though they themselves be bevel,” 121, 11. “if thou rememberest aught ere thou camest here, how thou camest here, thou mayst,” Tp. I, 2, 52. “he may live,” II, 1, 113. “to be your fellow you may deny me,” III, 1, 85. “hinder them from what this ecstasy may now provoke them to,” III, 3, 109. “as little as may be possible,” Gent. I, 2, 82. “I may make my case as Claudio's,” Meas. IV, 2, 178. “for which live long to thank both heaven and me. You may so in the end,” All's IV, 2, 68. “worst in this royal presence may I speak,” R2 IV, 115. “a score of ewes may be worth ten pounds,” H4B III, 2, 57. “happily met . . . . That may be, when I may be a wife. That may be must be,” Rom. IV, 1, 19. 20 etc. In negative and interrogative sentences: “why may not he be here again?” Wiv. IV, 2, 153. “and yet enough may not extend so far as to the lady,” Merch. II, 7, 28. “if you have any music that may not be heard,” Oth. III, 1, 16. “may you suspect who they should be that have thus mangled you?” V, 1, 78 etc. Similarly might: “who might be your mother, that you insult . . . over the wretched?” As III, 5, 35. “what I will not, that I cannot do. But might you do't and do the world no wrong, if so your heart were touched with that remorse as mine is to him?” Meas. II, 2, 53.
It may be and may be == possibly, perhaps: “it may be I shall raise you by and by,” Caes. IV, 3, 247. Caes. IV, 3, 247 “may be the knave bragged,” Wiv. III, 3, 211. “may be he tells you true,” III, 4, 11. “may be he will relent,” Meas. II, 2, 3. IV, 1, 23. All's III, 5, 72. John III, 4, 160. H4A IV, 3, 113. Cymb. II, 4, 104. Per. V, 1, 88.
Be it as it may == however it be: H6C I, 1, 194. “be it as it may be, I will marry thee,” As III, 3, 42. “that shall be as it may,” H5 II, 1, 7. “but come what may,” Tw. II, 1, 48. “come what come may,” Mcb. I, 3, 146. “chance it as it may,” Tim. V, 1, 129. “thrive I as I may,” Merch. II, 7, 60. “come again when you may,” Err. III, 1, 41. cf. the jargon of Nym in H5 II, 1, 15. H5 II, 1, 15 H5 II, 1, 15 H5 II, 1, 15 H5 II, 1, 15 H5 II, 1, 15 H5 II, 1, 15
3) denoting opportunity or liberty offered: “so of concealed sorrow may be said,” Ven. 333. “yet mayst thou well be tasted,” Ven. 333 “where thou mayst knock a nail into his head,” Tp. III, 2, 69. “there thou mayst brain him,” Tp. III, 2, 69 “to lesson me, how I may undertake a journey to my loving Proteus,” Gent. II, 7, 6. “then mightst thou pause,” Ven. 137. “might I but through my prison once a day behold this maid,” Tp. I, 2, 490. “your father might have kept this calf,” John I, 123. “that almost mightst have coined me into gold,” H5 II, 2, 98. Tp. I, 2, 415. Tp. I, 2, 415 II, 1, 204. II, 1, 204 Gent. II, 1, 173. III, 2, 29. H4B III, 1, 45 (might always subjunctive). you may, you may == do, go on, divert yourself at my expense: Troil. III, 1, 118 and Cor. II, 3, 39 (cf. “you may thank yourself,” Tp. II, 1, 123, == the imper. thank yourself).
4) == to be allowed, to be authorized: “the poor fool prays her that he may depart,” Ven. 578. “if your maid may be so bold,” Lucr. 1282. “for that vast of night that they may work,” Tp. I, 2, 327. “and may I say to thee, this pride of hers hath drawn my love from her,” Gent. III, 1, 72. “thou dost but what thou mayst,” H6A I, 3, 86. Meas. I, 4, 9. Mids. I, 2, 53. Rom. IV, 1, 19 etc. I may not == I am not allowed, I must not: “I may not evermore acknowledge thee,” Sonn. 36, 9. “it may not be,” Gent. IV, 4, 131. “I may not go in without your worship,” Wiv. I, 1, 288. “my haste may not admit it,” Meas. I, 1, 63. “you may, I may not,” I, 4, 9. “you may not so extenuate his offence,” II, 1, 27. “such a one as a man may not speak of without he say Sir-reverence,” Err. III, 2, 92. “which princes, would they, may not disannul,” I, 1, 145. “passed sentence may not be recalled,” I, 1, 145 “no woman may approach his silent court,” LLL II, 24. “you may not come in my gates,” LLL II, 24 V, 2, 675. V, 2, 675 Merch. I, 2, 24. Shr. III, 2, 200. Tw. V, 104. Wint. II, 2, 7. John III, 1, 66. R2 II, 3, 145. V, 2, 70. H4A IV, 3, 1. H6A I, 3, 7. H6A I, 3, 7 II, 2, 47. V, 3, 188. H6C I, 1, 263. IV, 6, 6. R3 IV, 1, 16. R3 IV, 1, 16 V, 3, 94. Cor. V, 2, 5. Rom. III, 2, 31. V, 1, 82. Mcb. III, 1, 122. Hml. I, 3, 19. Lr. IV, 5, 17. III, 7, 24.
Might: “no rightful plea might plead for justice there,” Lucr. 1649. “a tailor might scratch her where'er she did itch,” Tp. II, 2, 55. “who mutually hath answered my affection, so far forth as herself might be her chooser,” Wiv. IV, 6, 11. “I might not be admitted,” Tw. I, 1, 24. “my brother might not claim him,” John I, 126. “in wholesome wisdom he might not but refuse you,” Oth. III, 1, 50.
5) sometimes denoting, quite as the German moegen, an inclination or desire, == to choose, to please: “may your grace speak of it,” Meas. I, 3, 6. “construe my speeches better, if you may. Then wish me better; I will give you leave,” LLL V, 2, 341. “I never may believe these antic fables,” Mids. V, 2. “'tis well for thee, that, being unseminared, thy freer thoughts may not fly forth of Egypt,” Ant. I, 5, 12. “since the cuckoo builds not for himself, remain in it as thou mayst,” II, 6, 29. “woe are we, sir, you may not live to wear all your true followers out,” IV, 14, 133. “and longer might have stayed, if crooked fortune had not thwarted me,” Gent. IV, 1, 21 (== would). “majesty might never yet endure the moody frontier of a servant brow,” H4A I, 3, 18. “who intercepts my expedition? O, she that might have intercepted thee, by strangling thee in her accursed womb,” R3 IV, 4, 137. “I might not this believe without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes,” Hml. I, 1, 56. “so loving that he might not beteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly,” I, 2, 141. 5, 177.
6) Used to supply the place of the subjunctive mood: “vouchsafe my prayer may know,” Tp. I, 2, 423. “and that you will some good instruction give how I may bear me here,” Tp. I, 2, 423 “any villany that may not sully the chariness of our honesty,” Wiv. II, 1, 102. “give leave that we may bring you something on the way,” Meas. I, 1, 62. I pray she may (persuade) I, 2, 192. “God grant it may with thee in true peace live,” H4B IV, 5, 220. “any thing I have is his to use, so Somerset may die,” H6B V, 1, 53. “beseech you, I may be consul,” Cor. II, 3, 110. “I do entreat that we may sup together,” Oth. IV, 1, 273. “if thou dost break her virgin knot before all sanctimonious ceremonies may be ministered,” Tp. IV, 1, 16. “he shall know you better if I may live to report you,” Meas. III, 2, 172. “if you may please to think I love the king,” Wint. IV, 4, 532; cf. “may it please you,” Gent. I, 3, 39; Meas. III, 2, 209; Err. V, 136. “one that will play the devil with you, an a may catch you and your hide alone,” John II, 136. “I'll never trouble you, if I may spy them,” H6A I, 4, 22. “lest your true love may seem false in this, my name be buried,” Sonn. 72, 9. “season your admiration for a while till I may deliver,” Hml. I, 2, 193 etc. “I had rather it would please you I might be whipped,” Meas. V, 512. “would they not wish the feast might ever last,” Ven. 447. “we will make it our suit that the wrestling may not go forward,” As I, 2, 193. “tell me if this might be a brother,” Tp. I, 2, 118. “his tongue had not offended so today, if Cassius might have ruled,” Caes. V, 1, 47. “I feared lest I might anger thee,” Tp. IV, 169. “fearing lest my jealous aim might err,” Gent. III, 1, 28. “why dost thou ask? lest I might be too rash,” Meas. II, 2, 9. Ado I, 1, 316. H4B IV, 5, 212. H6B III, 2, 263. “and canopied in darkness sweetly lay, till they might open to adorn the day,” Lucr. 399 etc.
Oftenest after that, to denote a purpose (== in order that): “thou art bound to breed, that thine may live when thou thyself art dead,” Ven. 172. “that the star-gazers may say, the plague is banished,” Ven. 172 “show me the strumpet, that with my nails her beauty I may tear,” Lucr. 1472. Lucr. 1472 Sonn. 10, 9. Sonn. 10, 9 Tp. IV, 104. Tp. IV, 104 Gent. I, 1, 138. I, 2, 49. I, 3, 35. III, 1, 33. IV, 1, 54. V, 4, 82. Wiv. II, 2, 194. Meas. I, 2, 165. Err. I, 1, 34. V, 40. V, 40 Merch. III, 2, 46. All's I, 3, 39. H6A II, 2, 14. H6B II, 1, 75. H6C IV, 1, 122 etc. “each trifle under truest bars to throw, that to my use it might unused stay,” Sonn. 48, 3. and therefore from my face she turns my foes (her eyes) “that they elsewhere might dart their injuries,” 139, 12. “that she might think me some untutored youth,” 138, 3. Tp. III, 1, 35. Gent. I, 2, 68. Gent. I, 2, 68 IV, 2, 43. H6A II, 5, 32. H6C V, 5, 23 etc. That omitted: “Love made these hollows, if himself were slain, he might be buried in a tomb so simple,” Ven. 244. “direct mine arms I may embrace his neck,” H6A II, 5, 37.
Used to express a wish: “long may they kiss each other,” Ven. 505. “well may I get aboard!” Wint. III, 3, 57. “long mayst thou live,” R3 I, 3, 204. “prophet may you be,” Troil. III, 2, 190. “may you a better feast never behold,” Tim. III, 6, 98. “well may it sort that this portentous figure comes armed through our watch,” Hml. I, 1, 109 (see above may it please you). “Lord worshipped might he be!” Merch. II, 2, 98 (old Gobbo's speech). In subordinate clauses: which I wish may always answer your own wish, Ven. Ded. Merch. II, 2, 98 “if ever the duke return, as our prayers are he may,” Meas. III, 2, 164. “were now the general of our gracious empress, as in good time he may, from Ireland coming,” H5 V Prol. H5 V Prol. “who may I rather challenge for unkindness than pity for mischance,” Mcb. III, 4, 42. “O, that our night of woe might have remembered my deepest sense how hard true sorrow hits,” Sonn. 120, 9. “would thou mightst lie drowning,” Tp. I, 1, 60. “would I might but ever see that man,” I, 2, 168 etc.
7) Joined to adverbs denoting motion, == to have opportunity or liberty to go: “shine comforts from the east, that I may back to Athens by day-light,” Mids. III, 2, 433. “you may away by night,” H4A III, 1, 142. cf. Shall, Will etc.
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